In an interview with up2date., President Jutta Günther explains how the University of Bremen has set out to become a climate-friendly university and what expectations she has.
Ms. Günther, the University of Bremen is placing sustainability, climate justice, and climate neutrality at the center of its activities. What does that mean exactly?
We want to implement what we have decided on in the Academic Senate: That the University of Bremen will consistently dedicate itself to the topic of sustainability through its mission statement. In November 2021, the Academic Senate established the Sustainability, Climate Justice, and Climate Neutrality Commission, or NKK Commission for short. It has set itself the task of developing a sustainability strategy for the university.
This means that we will not only research the topic of sustainability in specific disciplines, but will make sustainability an all-encompassing and broad-based topic in research and teaching. Furthermore, the university itself is also to become more sustainable. This means that all areas of the university – research, teaching, and operational aspects – are included.
Why is the university adopting a new mission statement?
Our mission statement is over 20 years old and is now being updated. In a working group led by myself, we have developed a draft with broad participation from all status groups and areas of the university. We will soon present this to the Academic Senate for deliberation and ruling. In the new text, we want to take the current challenges facing society into account and focus on sustainability as a central concern. We are incorporating it into the university’s other strategic goals, including, for example, gender equality and diversity, internationalization and interdisciplinarity.
What specifically is planned?
Our Sustainability Office, also known as the “Green Office,” has already been established. Members of the university can contact this office with any questions they have about sustainability. Students who want to get involved in climate protection, for example, can find a digital map on the website with information on groups and projects in and around Bremen. Or they can suggest projects themselves. After all, part of our sustainability strategy is that students can earn credit points for their commitment.
In the area of research, we are pleased to be driving forward many projects that contribute to the university’s guiding principle. One very important one is the recently launched collaborative project BreGoS – Bremen goes Sustainable. It is the first research project in which the four state universities in Bremen are involved over a period of several years. They are jointly developing and testing sustainability initiatives in the areas of biodiversity, mobility, and resource and energy use until the end of 2025. The knowledge gained is to be anchored in the higher education institutions’ structures.
What is happening in terms of BreGoS at the university?
The campus itself is becoming a research object and real laboratory: participants are analyzing energy generation, transport, and consumption in order to design measures for efficient energy use. In the “Biodiversity Hub,” students, building management staff, gardeners, teaching staff members, and the university management are working together on ways to implement a new green space management system to promote biodiversity on campus. Our goal is to make the campus carbon-neutral and our environmental management will also be further developed into a NKK management for this purpose.
What is the University of Bremen already doing well in terms of sustainability?
The University of Bremen is already successful nationally and internationally in climate and marine research, in many disciplines such as environmental physics and renewable energy research. We have many study programs that take sustainability and climate neutrality into account. I see a great willingness in the faculties to integrate the topic of sustainability into the curriculum.
For example, the field of cultural studies is working on a concept for “Environmental Humanities” and much more. It is encouraging to see how many people at the university are eager to contribute.
Additionally, there have been many specific climate protection activities on campus for a long time. For example, the university obtains all its energy from green electricity, and an employee initiative operates solar panels on university roofs.
Why is the University of Bremen particularly well suited to establishing a sustainability strategy as an interdisciplinary task?
One thing is clear: Well-trained and committed people are needed to develop and implement future solutions to challenges across disciplinary boundaries.
As a university, we recognize our social responsibility. We want to help shape the future and provide impetus. That’s what universities are for. This is where we educate young people who carry the issue into society and they are the ideal multipliers. If young people are sensitized to the issues of sustainability, climate justice, and climate neutrality, then we have already fulfilled an important task.
How can students and employees get involved?
We would like to encourage everyone to get involved. Those who are interested can contribute their ideas to their faculty. They can participate in the meetings of the Academic Senate that are open to the public and they can contact the Academic Senate and NKK Commission representatives elected by their status group and voice their concerns. It is important to us, the new University Executive Board, that we get input from the entire university. It should be an integrated university-wide process that is not dictated from above, but that everyone implements together. The issue concerns us all and we have to use the social momentum to motivate everyone. After all, it’s clear to everyone that we can’t go on as before.
If you would like to find out more about the activities being carried out by various organizations, you can find more information here.
https://www.uni-bremen.de/as (in German only)
https://www.uni-bremen.de/as/gremienliste (in German only)
Theme of the Month: Sustainability
Since its foundation in 1971, the University of Bremen has been committed to social responsibility. Climate protection and sustainability are fundamental principles guiding the university: in research, teaching, and operations. For this reason, up2date., the University of Bremen online magazine, will focus on the topic of sustainability in May. The theme of the month explores current projects, issues, and challenges.